The Fish Rots from the Head: Is there a Case to Be Made for a Second Trump Term?

The United States appears to have reached an impasse, and I hear rumblings about civil war.

With this in mind, let us consider an 1858 speech by President Abraham Lincoln concerning the threat that slavery posed to the unity of the country:

“If we could first know where we are, and wither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’”

Will Donald Trump lead the United States into such a crisis as Lincoln deemed necessary for the resolution of differences that plagued the nation?

He has certainly led to nation to the brink. Let us examine his record. The COVID death count in the United States is about to reach 200,000.[1] Those American who still have jobs nervously await the next economic downturn. The United States is an international pariah, and increasingly feckless before the growing military, economic, and political threat from China. Foreign nations have interfered in the American election process, and may well do so again. The president plays fast and loose with laws intended to limit his power.  Racial tension is at its highest since the 1960s.  Are we better off than we were in 2012?

A Trump landslide victory in the upcoming election would bring more of the same, with the United States slipping toward a civil reckoning similar to that which Lincoln mentioned.

If Joe Biden wins the election by a narrow margin, Trump will challenge the results.  A Supreme Court stacked with Republican appointees will back him. Biden won’t stand a chance there, and another hole will be poked into the shell of the Constitution. Trump considers himself beyond counsel now. If he wins the election, by hook or crook, he will accelerate the pace of consolidation of personal power at the expense of the system of checks and balances that once girded the United States political system. Further, Trump will continue to foment racial and political discord, fail to take seriously the COVIS threat, and turn his back on the country’s obligations abroad.

A continuation of the Trump presidency would likely bring civil discord in its train. Something would have to give.

Meanwhile, how effective would a Joe Biden presidency be?  If Biden did not inspire confidence, say, thirty years ago, how could he manage the trick now?  In such times as these? Should reasons of health force the 77-year-old Biden from office, then the country would have a black female president, and Republican America would not stand for that.[2]  You will recall the partisan roadblocks that Barack Obama faced as president, and he was at least a male. A Biden or Kamala presidency would likely witness more fraying along racial and political lines, but the chance of a cleansing of the country’s soul would be slim.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the United States has never been anything more than an idea created 240-odd years ago to protect the interests of the wealthy white men of that time. The interests of others have never meant all that much. So much has changed over the centuries that what little remains of the original version of the United States depends upon a president arrogating quasi-dictatorial powers to protect his own interests and those of his diminishing base of support.  This development sits uneasily beside the lofty idea upon which the United States claims to have been founded. Keep in mind that many considered the Soviet Union to be a good idea, until its god failed.

Voltaire once referred to the crumbling Holy Roman Empire as “neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.” The United States, as it now stands, is neither one nation, nor indivisible, nor does it provide justice for all.

Re-electing Trump would force a long-overdue civil reckoning. People will only take so much.  Let the chips fall where they may.[3]

The fish does rot from the head.


[1] The United States, which has 4.25 percent of the world’s population, has 22 percent of world COVID cases.

[2] Having lived over twenty years in red states, I write with a fair degree of confidence on that score.

[3] If the United States remains divided against itself, what will the former United States look like in a few years? Well, the West Coast states might form one group, and the northeast another.  Texas, true to historical form, might go its own way. Would Canada accept Minnesota and Wisconsin? What about the rest of the country, the flyover zone between New York and California? The urban centers of the Midwest tend to lean left, while the rural areas lean to the right (Recall what Karl Rove said about Pennsylvania as being Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between). The blue cities sprinkled amid this sea of red might resemble the free imperial cities of the Holy Roman Empire, islands of independence within larger princely territories with oftentimes different religions and systems of rule.

Trump’s Coronvirus Approach Goes to Eleven

United States President Donald Trump has come in for a fair bit of criticism for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those critics who rushed to judgment upon viewing Trump’s recent interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios may wish to reconsider their assessment of the president’s performance on the Coronavirus front. For there is more at play here. To frame the president’s comportment under Swan’s questions, we need to go back in time, all the way back to 1982.

I point you to veteran rockumantarian Marty DiBergi’s interview with hard rock band Spinal Tap lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel. This footage shows Spinal Tap’s Tufnel fielding, with consummate clarity of expression, difficult questions posed by DiBergi. Note how assured Tufnel appears as he shares the secrets of his craft. I enjoin you to pay particular attention to his flawless command of statistics at the end of the conversation, and DiBergi’s respectful silence. I, for one, took away from this interview an unstinting appreciation for Tufnel’s knowledge of, and commitment to, his art.

NIgel Tufnel: artist and professional,

I now refer you to the first 1:42 of the Trump/Swan interview below. Pay attention to the cogency and clarity of the president’s responses to Swan’s tough lines of questioning, his cool-headedness, his respect for the give-and-take of the media interview process, and his mastery of statistics. Note the parallels with Tufnel’s performance.

Close your eyes, listen to the two interviews a second time, think away Trump’s formal apparel and, er, non-mullet, and imagine how smoothly the Tufnel interview might have played out with a bit of coaching from the president.